background image
ing this goal. One fundamental benefit of ASP technology for cultural heritage sector
institutions is that it offers the advantages of a fully integrated client/server architecture
without the responsibilities and costs of running an in-house system.
In issue 5 of the DigiCULT.Info Newsletter, Thomas Finholt from the Collaboratory
for Research on Electronic Work (CREW) at the University of Michigan's School of
Information reported on a study which found that the public sector institutions most
likely to benefit from ASPs are the medium-sized organisations.These are, as Finholt
explains, `big enough to need efficient information technology and support but are not
big enough to carry the costs of the equipment and staff.' ASPs give smaller cultural
heritage organisations access to advanced resources, thus allowing them to offer services
that they would not be able to offer individually. In the cultural and scientific heritage
sector, ASP technology is most frequently employed for collection management purposes.
The current and potential uses of ASP in the cultural heritage sector are outlined explicitly
in this section's three case studies.The REGNET and OpenHeritage case studies indicate
the possibilities offered by ASP technology and shared methodologies (even at this early
stage in its development), as well as suggesting future uses to which it may be put as
prices fall and the idea of outsourced and shared hardware/services becomes more
widely accepted.
It is axiomatic to say that information technologies have broken down distance and
enable new kinds of interactions between people whether they are in the same building
or continents apart. Email, bulletin boards, and mailing lists support the passing of mes-
sages and information. In contrast to these asynchronous approaches, synchronous tools
make possible dynamic, active, and engaging communication of both a personal and pro-
fessional nature. Peer-to-peer technologies have enabled the possibilities for the effective
and efficient sharing of resources (using the computers of community members rather
than servers) to be explored and exploited. Among the possibilities for the heritage sector
created by these developments is the increased ability for attracting a global audience to
study or present cultural heritage artefacts through intense, varied, lower cost, and sim-
pler communication mechanisms.They have also created new possibilities for building
consortia and partnerships between cultural/scientific organisations and their existing and
new audiences.They provide the basis for both formal and informal interactions, and
platforms for enabling professional development.This section is not about virtual com-
munities themselves - DigiCULT considered this in Thematic Issue 5 (January 2004) -
but about the technologies that can be used to underpin them.
The case studies that accompany this discussion demonstrate a wide range of these
approaches, and depict the variety of purposes to which they can be put.The eMarCon
project gives a technology-driven solution to a straightforward logistical problem: how
can (physically) huge artefacts be experienced in context with each other when their
real-world locations are far apart? VRoma shows how collaborative resources can be
deployed for multiple purposes, particularly as a medium for structured and unstructured
learning.The MIRROR community of practice gives perhaps the fullest account of the
benefits of these new approaches, with the goal of creating both a virtual, pan-European
group of natural science museums and new methodologies for learning.The variety of
technologies and approaches involved here highlight the growing importance of interop-
erability between collaborative systems. Improvements in the ease of sharing materials
and experiences enable links between disparate spheres and disciplines to be forged and,
given time, strengthened. Online digital museum exhibitions offer a platform for institu-
Introduction
11
TWR2004_01_layout#62 14.04.2004 14:07 Uhr Seite 11